Wrestlers qualify for State Championships in Atlantic City
“Dream it – do it” is Olympic champion Jordan Burroughs’ motto. In New Jersey, every high school wrestler dreams of entering Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City to compete for a State Championship.
For West Morris High School wrestlers Nick Matthews, Brandon Carcuffe and Adam Kratch, “Atlantic City transitions from a dream to a destination,” in the words of journalist James Kratch. The Wolfpack seniors placed third in Saturday’s NJSIAA Region 1 championships, earning the chance to join just 23 other wrestlers in their weight classes – the best of the best in New Jersey – to compete for a State title.
Sophomore David Migliaccio placed fourth, falling just short of qualifying.
Nine Wolfpack wrestlers – including John Schade, Dylan Luciano, Cory Fleming, John Sickles and Jesse Windt – qualified for Regions and advanced to the quarter finals.
The team’s performance “is unprecedented for our program -- an accomplishment that represents the hard-work of many individuals” said head Coach Ken Rossi. He recognized the Long Valley rec program coaches, “our strength coach Chris DelPreore and my assistant coaches Jim Balella, Chris Marold, John Barnett, and Jeremy Adickes [who] worked tirelessly with the boys.
Rossi also credited something you don’t often hear about wrestling: teamwork. “They put so much effort in to make each other better. That is what is hard to recognize as an outsider: how much they all need each other as a team. We really had that this year.”
In the quarterfinals, Fleming defeated Roxbury’s Devon LaFranco 5-2 (for the third time this year), Matthews pinned Wayne Valley’s Vincent Rigoglioso, and Sickles beat DePaul’s Nick Carey to advance. But all three were defeated in semifinals, forcing them to join their teammates in wrestlebacks to compete for third place.
In the first round of wrestlebacks, Schade defeated Pope John’s Austin Sisco; Luciano topped Wayne Hills’ Mojahed Hamdeh; Migliaccio pinned Dylan Sullivan of Morris Hills; Carcuffe pinned Pequannock’s Tim Burklow; Kratch pinned West Milford’s Richard Dizenzo, and Windt beat Kristian Barret of Lenape Valley.
Next, Migliaccio defeated Kittatinny’s Austin Scrivani in the wrestlebacks semifinals 9-2. Matthews topped Montville’s Adam Fano 3-1, Carcuffe won a 1-0 thriller over Hackettstown’s Tyler Kozimor, and Kratch bested Tyler Zimmerman of Jefferson 3-1. The other WMC wrestlers were eliminated.
Sickles and Fleming completed two of the most outstanding careers in Wolfpack wrestling history, respectively ranking as the third and fourth winningest wrestlers WMC has ever known.
Matthews, Carcuffe and Kratch punched their tickets to Atlantic City with wins in the wreslteback finals – all three within 10 of the most exciting minutes in Wolfpack history.
Matthews outlasted Kittatinny’s Thomas Murphy 2-1 in overtime to earn his second trip to States.
Carcuffe was losing 3-2 to top-seeded Jesse Thorsen with seconds remaining. But according to live-blogger Jan Rosenberg (a former States place winner), “Carcuffe on the offense… lots of hand fighting and shot attempts… a wild scramble … Carcuffe scores the winning takedown at the buzzer!” Carcuffe’s thrilling 4-3 win avenged an earlier season loss to the Belvidere wrestler named “Outstanding Wrestler” at Districts.
Seventh-seeded Kratch took down Phillipsburg’s Broderick Bupivi in the first period, rode him out in the second, and would not be turned in the third. Kratch’s 2-0 win to qualify for States is another milestone in perhaps the biggest turn-around season in Wolfpack history.
Migliaccio missed States by the narrowest possible margin, falling to Montville’s Anthony Fano 3-2.
This is the third time in team history that at least three wrestlers qualified for States. In 1990, Tim Mulrooney, Mike Mulrooney, Bruce Wach and Steve Watts qualified. In 1965, Joe Slachetka, Roy Oakes, Chuck Lyons and Everett Chamberlain went to Boardwalk Hall.
“In Atlantic City I will tell the guys the same things I have been telling them for the last few weeks,” said Rossi. “Don't look forward to the end. You have the rest of your life to be normal. You have just a few more mat appearances to be exceptional.
“I will also tell them don't be afraid to win. Most guys this time of year wrestle conservative because they are afraid of losing. To achieve ultimate victory, you must risk ultimate defeat. You can't be afraid to win and risk everything.”
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